Poker is a Game of Skill; Pennsylvania Judge Rules
The case against a resident who ran a small stakes poker game in his garage has had his case dismissed by a Pennsylvania judge on the basis that poker is a game of skill and therefore cannot be governed under the Commonwealth’s gambling laws. Columbia County Judge Thomas James Jr. made his position very clear in the last paragraph of his ruling which read: “The Court finds that Texas hold’em poker is a game where skill predominates over chance. Thus, is it not ‘unlawful gambling’ under the Pennsylvania Code.” The ruling covers only the judge’s jurisdiction of Columbia and Montour counties which is located in North East Pennsylvania.
Two people were charged by the Commonwealth with unlawful gambling for hosting a $1-$2 no limit game in their garage. The players were charged no rake though they were encouraged to tip the dealer. State police were notified of the game and sent an undercover officer to investigate around 20 different times then charges were filed. The laws in Pennsylvania governing gambling specifically define gambling games as games that rely predominantly on chance.
Peter Campana, the attorney representing both defendants as well as a lifelong poker player maintains that poker is not a game of chance. “I’ve seen poker players of all calibers; there’s no question in my mind that skill controls poker more than luck of the draw,” he said. Campana referenced many texts including “Caro’s Secrets of Winning Poker” and noted in his defense that there are more than 600 books on improving poker play. Campana believes that the ruling may force legislators to expand Pennsylvania’s gambling law to include poker or change the laws to regulate the game of skill.